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World’s Largest Urban Wildlife Crossing Project Receives $1 Million Donation

Credit_Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation.jpg
A rendering of the crossing spanning the 101. It was announced in September that, upon completion, the crossing would be named for the largest donor, Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.
(Courtesy: Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)
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Public or private, large or small, the donations continue to stream into the world’s largest urban wildlife crossing project.

Boeing says it will donate $1 million to the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor project, which aims to build a bridge over the 101 in Agoura Hills to allow mountain lions and other animals to cross the freeway.

Other donors to the public-private project include the State Wildlife Conservation Board and the Annenberg Foundation, said Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. She said groundbreaking for the project could happen this spring.

"Let's just celebrate. This is a really hopeful project that is going to ensure that mountain lions don't vanish," Pratt said. "And with all the grim news out there, it's been something that sustained me."

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Pratt hopes the $72 million the federation raised is enough to cover the construction costs. In the worst-case scenario, the effort would need to raise another $5-$10 million, she said.

Meanwhile, other fundraising will continue Pratt said.

"The National Park Service Research is not funded year-to-year either. So we'll also be raising for an endowment for their work," she said. "The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will be taking responsibility for managing the habitat on top of the crossing. So we still have some fundraising to do so that they can have funds to do that."

Boeing's Santa Susana Laboratory — just north of Liberty Canyon — is home to a thriving ecosystem that includes mountain lions. But it's also the site of a partial nuclear meltdown that occurred in 1959 and still has not been cleaned, despite a 2007 consent order from California's Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Pratt said the area will undergo a clean-up at some point. With regard to why Boeing donated, she said, "I kind of say the wildlife picked Boeing in some respects." Eventually, the Santa Susana site will be a part of the greater Liberty Canyon picture.

Regional mountain lions are breeding themselves out of existence, said Pratt. Birth defects started showing up, and sperm counts and viability went down.

"And that's because the 101 is in the way, so this is going to facilitate new genetic blood, or non-family members coming into the Santa Monica Mountains for the mountain lions so that they literally don't inbreed themselves out of existence," she said.

Looking ahead to the completion of the wildlife crossing project, Pratt said the LA area "is about to become a world leader in how to coexist with wildlife and how to preserve biodiversity in such an urbanized environment."

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